Thursday, August 23, 2001

Cloudy rules obscure
politicians’ spending

The issue: The state's laws on use
of campaign funds have "gray areas" that
are subject to interpretation.

It's safe to say that a politician is always on the prowl for votes, whether at a campaign rally or picking up groceries at the supermarket. That is why spending campaign money is tricky and why the state's Campaign Spending Commission should clear up the web of rules governing campaign spending. And politicians could avoid entanglement by erring on the side of caution when spending campaign funds.

City Councilman Jon Yoshimura and Carol Gabbard, a member of the state Board of Education, have both faced recent commission scrutiny.

Yoshimura, who has agreed to pay a $3,500 fine, seems to have run into the ambiguities of campaign spending rules. The commission decided that a trip to Maui, which he paid for with campaign funds, was a violation because, although he went there for a campaign meeting, his family lives there and the trip could be viewed as a personal excursion.

Robert Watada, executive director of the commission, acknowledged this week that spending rules have "gray areas," and that with some of Yoshimura's alleged violations, "we gave him the benefit of the doubt." The point is, however, that these "gray areas" should not exist. It may not be possible to map out every situation in which campaign funds could be spent, but if the rules are vague, they leave the commission vulnerable to charges of favoritism and corruption and allow elected officials to become targets for their opponents.

Such may be the case for school board member Gabbard, whose anti-homosexual views have drawn charges of campaign violations from those who disagree with her. The commission determined that her violations of not reporting a personal telephone, post office box and Internet services used in her campaign were minimal because they did not amount to more than $500 in value. Gabbard attributed another violation on advertising to ignorance of the law and was allowed to correct her spending report.

Even after these matters were cleared, her opponents have raised other allegations, which is their right. However, it is because of "gray areas" and complicated rules that they are able to do so.

The voting public should be informed if a candidate is using campaign funds illegally, but fuzzy rules subject to differing interpretation do no one any good.

City gets high rating
in ‘kids-friendly’ study

The issue: A study of the nation's cities
on the health and well-being of children
ranks Honolulu among the best.

PARENTS can take some comfort in ratings that show Honolulu to be among the nation's "friendliest" cities for children. The most recent of eight biennial studies by Washington-based Zero Population Growth ranks Honolulu 32nd among 140 medium-sized cities, with a grade of A-. But that is little cause for celebration because the study handed out relatively friendly grades that ranged only from A+ to C-. Also, Honolulu's ranking is a decline from the 1998 study, where its A- placed it ninth best among 112 cities.

The Kids-Friendly Cities Report Card considered indicators in community life, economics, education, environment, health, population change and public safety in 25 cities with populations greater than 2 million, cities with populations between 100,000 and 2 million and 74 suburban cities.

Honolulu's best grade was in health, where it scored an A+ and topped all other cities at its level. That was based on Honolulu's teenaged girls accounting for only 7.4 percent of births (the average among medium-sized cities was 15.3 percent); an infant mortality rate of 5.2 percent (compared with other cities' 8.1 percent); the 7.2 percentage of low birth-weight babies (compared with 8.6 percent) and the operation of seven clinics funded under the Public Health Services Act, which help to prevent unintended pregnancies (other cities averaged two).

Honolulu's park space, library circulation and children's program attendance count earned it an A in community life, and it scored an A- in environment. A 5.4 percent unemployment rate gave it a B in economics. SAT and ACT scores and class sizes, including both private and public schools, that hovered around average resulted in a B grade in education. Honolulu's lowest grade, a C, was in public safety; although violent crimes per capita were relatively low, its 109 property crimes per 1,000 persons was much worse than the average of 60 in its category.

Radhika Sarin, the principal researcher, acknowledges that much has been left out of the study. She says accurate comparisons of water quality are impossible because of haphazard reporting. That should have been a C- for Honolulu, which lacks fluoride that fights tooth decay. Honolulu's education rating may be generous because of the inclusion of private schools.

Generally, however, the study offers encouragement that Honolulu's keiki have an advantage over many of their peers on the mainland.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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